Ash Mills

New project creates pilgrimage routes for every Church of England cathedral

Sun 17 Nov 2019
By Tola Mbakwe

A new collaboration between the British Pilgrimage Trust and the Association of English Cathedrals has ensured that people can arrive on foot to every Church of England cathedral.

The project, to mark 2020 Year of Cathedrals, Year of Pilgrimage, will ensure there is a pilgrimage route for every Church of England cathedral taking in established wayfarer routes, other places of faith, spiritual pathways and lesser known pilgrim ways.

Each cathedral will have a route available to its visitors, offering one day options to two weeks and beyond in some cases.


Most routes, such as the 35-mile St Alban Pilgrim Way from St Paul’s Cathedral that opened in June, offer “green” public transport options to make them more environmentally sustainable.

Dr Guy Hayward of the British Pilgrimage Trust was inspired to do the project as 2020 brings together a number of individual cathedral anniversaries, from the 850th anniversary of Becket at Canterbury to the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Coventry]

Next year also see a number of new pilgrimage routes opened and established including the Northern Saints Trails that explores the North East as the Christian crossroads of the British Isles.

Dr Howard said: “This project is about creating a whole new way of engaging with cathedrals for everyone, whether or not they have been into a cathedral before.

“It turns cathedrals into more than just tourist places by turning tourists into visitors and visitors into pilgrims.

“And cathedrals are, in some way, holy magnets: they draw you towards them, most obviously in a visual sense as they are often the only thing you can see on the horizon.

“Cathedrals are the ultimate symbols of destination,” he added.

All the routes are available to download onto a digital map app and more are expected be added throughout 2020.


The routes which can be found on the Trust’s website include long established ways such as Salisbury, Winchester, Canterbury, Lichfield, Chester, and Hereford Cathedrals, as well as lesser known pathways like Worcester Cathedral along the river and Liverpool’s route that encounters both the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals.

Routes in Birmingham and Manchester reflect their diverse communities too by encountering Mosques, Jewish Synagogues and other holy places along the way.

Dr Hayward said: “The British Pilgrimage Trust believes that pilgrimage in Britain today should attempt to 'reinvent the wheel’ to transform the medieval tradition into a modern practice.

“We want to make pilgrimage a spiritual practice available for everyone to bring their own beliefs,” he added.

Dr Nick Mayhew-Smith, author of Britain’s Holiest Places stressed the importance of the project in connecting people to their nearby holy places.

“A one-day pilgrimage is perfect for people who live locally to approach their cathedral in a new way,” he said.  

“All holy places arise from the love and devotion of local people, these are places that bring a community together to celebrate shared values and history.”

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